In a recently released video, blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚) and his wife Yuan Weijing (袁伟静) describe in detail the virtual imprisonment they have been subjected to in their own home in Shandong Province since Chen’s release from prison in September 2010. According to press reports, the couple was beaten after the hour-long video was posted on February 8, 2011, on the website of ChinaAid, a Texas-based rights group.
Chen, a self-taught “barefoot” lawyer, was imprisoned for four years and three months in a prison in Linyi, Shandong after helping the city’s inhabitants file a class-action lawsuit against the city over its policy of forced abortions and sterilizations.
In the video, Chen and Yuan describe the round-the-clock surveillance by guards surrounding their house in the village of Dongshigu, Linyi City; having their phone lines and Internet connection cut off; and surviving on vegetables they grow in the backyard and the groceries provided by his elderly mother because they are forbidden to leave their home. Chen says: “A society that is not built on a foundation of fairness and equality, but instead relies on bullying and violence, cannot possibly maintain lasting stability.” He says that he has continued to appeal to the authorities to overturn his criminal conviction on which he was imprisoned, and asks for help to deliver his appeal to “institutions that are concerned with fairness and justice in human society.”
After the reported beating, Teng Biao (滕彪), legal scholar and one of Chen’s legal advisors, was unable to verify the incident despite his attempts. Teng, however, stated through his Twitter account today: “There is 100% certainty about the following: government personnel and hired thugs have illegally detained Guangcheng’s family for a long period of time, illegally denied them the right to communicate, illegally blocked other citizens from visiting Guangcheng, illegally damaged citizen property, illegally entered residences, and beat up lawyers and other citizens, etc. These actions already clearly constitute multiple crimes!”
“Imprisoning a freed man and his wife in their own home is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of movement, and indicates a complete disregard of the rule of law,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China (HRIC). “Unfortunately, the abuse of Chen and his family is not an isolated case, but an example of the ongoing impunity with which the authorities violate the rights of citizens.”
HRIC urges the Chinese authorities to investigate the reported beating, guarantee the safety of Chen and his wife, and end their detention immediately and unconditionally. HRIC also urges the international community to closely monitor Chen’s case.
Chen Guangcheng, born November 12, 1971, and blind since childhood, is a self-taught (“barefoot”) lawyer and activist in Shandong. In 1996, Chen traveled to Beijing to petition on the basis of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Disabled Persons (残疾人保障法) and succeeded in stopping the local government from illegally taxing him on various items. In 1998, he again traveled to Beijing to petition to stop the “two-fields system,” an illegal form of economic exploitation used by local officials. Chen also provided legal advice to the disabled on how to protect their rights, including suing the Beijing metro system to uphold the right of the disabled to ride the metro without charge. He and other human rights lawyers and academics aided villagers in protecting their rights and suing the Linyi municipal authorities over an official policy of forced abortions and sterilizations. In March 2006, Linyi authorities took Chen from his home and held him in an undisclosed location for over three months before formally detaining him on June 10 that year. In August 2006, Chen Guangcheng was convicted of “intentional damage of property” and “organizing people to block traffic,” and sentenced to four years and three months in prison. TIME named him as one of 2006's “Top 100 People Who Shape Our World.” Chen Guangcheng's was one of the few cases specifically mentioned in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's public statement during President Hu Jintao's state visit in January 2011.
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